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Ramrods – Bracelet Circus

Ramrods
Bracelet Circus
by kenn staub at 05 September 2021, 4:23 PM

RAMRODS bill themselves as one of Germany’s most innovative and variable rock acts. On “Bracelet Circus” (released June 11, 2021) the band, who count THE BEATLES, PRETTY THINGS, and LED ZEPPELIN among their inspirations, set out to venture into new terrain. To this end, the aim when making “Bracelet Circus” was to seamlessly interweave classic rock ‘n’ roll, soul, R&B, and country rock; incorporating medieval instruments, brass players, and a choir to produce powerful songs.

Listening to “Bracelet Circus” a few things stand out. First is Peter Harasim’s singing. His voice is not a thing of beauty, but rather a gravelly unique combination of BOB DYLAN (without the nasality) and JOE COCKER (though higher pitched and lacking the fluidity). This is not a critique, merely an observation. Harasim’s vocals grew on me, especially as they fit the music being laid down and the lyrics to which he gave voice. Next is the guitar work, particularly the top-notch solos. I frequently couldn’t help comparing their tone and dynamic to those by WADDY WACHTEL in support of WARREN ZEVON (and, I must add, ZEVON came to mind quite frequently over the course of “Bracelet Circus”). Finally, the 12 songs making up the over hour-long album are eclectic; channeling, as billed, 1960s/1970s rock, traditional country and western, blues, slow-to-midtempo keyboard ballads (think BILLY JOEL or ZEVON), and what RAMRODS have dubbed world music progressive.
Mesmerizing folk instrumentation opens “Suffragette Woman” before giving way to a cool, jumped-up 1970s funky riff. The riff, with its big bottom end, is a repeating theme throughout, with the “snake charmer-like” folk line reappearing at the track’s midpoint. “Don’t Whine Baby” is a horn-driven, infectious slice of early-to-mid 1960s pop. The guitars shine on two excellent solo breaks. Traditional country, played with just the right amount of western twang, is on order for “The Last Of The Bones.”

The first song on the album that conjured WADDY WACHTEL and ZEVON for me is “Baby When The Sun Goes Down.” It’s midtempo AOR; incorporating horns, an organ that subtly plays underneath, and an extremely tuneful guitar excursion. “We’re Gonna Roam” is straight forward psychedelic rock. ZEVON’s musical sensibilities are once again evoked by “Turbulent Skies,” particularly the backing vocals used to accent Harasim’s singing and the full, melodic guitar solo.

Loves Me Dearly” and “Two Of Our Kind” are keyboard-driven ballads. Each song has a level of simplicity which makes them beautifully appealing. Both conjure up BILLY JOEL, especially “Two Of Our Kind,” which is sparer than “Loves Me Dearly.” I could picture “Two Of Our Kind” being played in a smoky, downtrodden bar that has a dusty piano tucked away in a dark corner (ala the scene in “Piano Man”).

Things turn more uptempo on “Lost Highway,” a track that exudes 1970s rock and is capped by a fantastic bluesy-psychedelic guitar solo. “Dolphins,” an out-and-out blues number, is a highlight of the album. It’s a song of loss and lament; the guitar playing driving this point home along with Harasim’s vocals, which perfectly suit the track.

The album ends with the world music progressive “Bracelet Circus Suites.” The first suite takes place over two parts; “a. See The World Through My Windows” and “b. Window Pane.” “See The World Through My Windows” is largely acoustic and has a world music feel with its preponderance of traditional and folk instrumentation. The music takes on a surreal tonality as it transitions to “Window Pane,” which has more of a jam band sensibility. Clocking in at around 10 minutes, the entire suite takes you on a journey. That said, the journey sometimes is meandering, without a seeming destination, and left me waiting for the song to finish. I could definitely see this portion (or even the first part) becoming an old-fashioned jam session during any RAMRODS’ live set. The third part of the suite is a separate track, “c. For Jan.” It’s a short spare song of unknown intent (at least to me).

Bracelet Circus” is an album that’s hard to pin down. If forced to label it, one thing I can say with certainty is that it’s not metal. I could also say with certainty that it is musically interesting and well played (don’t sleep on the lyrics either). In sum, “Bracelet Circus” is a solid collection of eclecticism that I recommend be approached with an open mind and plenty of time to give it the full appreciation it deserves.


Musicianship: 9
Songwriting: 8
Memorability: 8
Production: 8

4 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. Suffragette Woman
2. Don’t Whine Baby
3. The Last Of The Bones
4. Baby When The Sun Goes Down
5. We’re Gonna Roam
6. Turbulent Skies
7. Loves Me Dearly
8. Two Of Our Kind
9. Lost Highway
10. Dolphins
11. Bracelet Circus Suite: a. See The World Through My Windows; b. Window Pane
12. Bracelet Circus Suite: c. For Jan
Lineup:
Peter Harasim – Vocals, Guitars
Ben Forrester – Guitars
René Langenhan – Guitars
Kalle Duringer – Bass
Ralf Gebhardt – Keyboards
Alberto Parmigiani – Drums
Record Label: SAOL
     


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Edited 16 September 2021
 

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